“The Battered Bastards of Baseball” impresses Sundance

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You can pay obsessive attention to baseball for years and still come across something you’ve never seen or heard of before. So it is with the Portland Mavericks and the documentary “The Battered Bastards of Baseball,” which chronicles their brief, colorful history.

I had heard of a minor league team in Portland in the 70s called the Portland Mavericks and knew Jim Bouton played for them for a spell (and that he co-invented Big League Chew with teammate Rob Nelson at the time). I had no idea, however, that the Mavericks were an independent team that played in an otherwise affiliated league: the class-A Northwest League. I also didn’t know that they were owned by actor Bing Russell, father of Kurt Russell and grandfather of former big leaguer Matt Franco. And that Kurt played for the team himself. And that the batboy was Todd Field who would later go on to direct “In the Bedroom” and “Little Children.” Or that, despite being unaffiliated, the team had no small amount of success and drew excellent crowds.

The documentary just played at the Sundance Film Festival and its rights were bought up by “Fast and Furious” director Justin Lin who plans to adapt it into a feature length film. You have to figure the documentary itself will get some extra exposure as well some point soon. If anyone sees where it may be playing on TV please let us all know.

Jonny Venters is still pitching

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Lefty reliever Jonny Venters was among a handful of players the Rays signed to minor league contracts, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

Venters, 32, hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2012 and has logged just 27 2/3 innings in the minors in the meantime due to a continuous battle with his elbow. According to David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Venters has undergone four — four! — Tommy John surgeries.

When he was healthy, Venters was a fearsome late-game option for the Braves. He posted a 1.95 ERA with 93 strikeouts in 83 innings in 2010, and a 1.84 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 88 innings in 2011. His first-half performance in 2011 earned him a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Venters has spent the last two years in the Rays’ system and he’ll try to make it a third.